Posted: August 14, 2014 Demolition makes way for mixed-use building
Crews knocking down buildings on Eau Claire Street are making things look a lot different for drivers and pedestrians. The Farmers Store Plaza building was taken down July 21, and demolition on the block will continue for a couple more weeks.
The site on the west side of South Barstow Street will eventually be home to a $25 million mixed-used building. The lowest level will be for parking, the ground level will be used for commercial space such as shops and restaurants, and the top floors (six and seven) will be apartments.
Stuart Schaefer, principal of Commonweal Development Corporation of Eau Claire, said the process started with taking competitive bids on the work and disconnecting utilities, not only inside the buildings to be torn down, but around them.
Electrical wires needed to be removed, along with ventilation, and anything that could be reused in other buildings later. According to Schaefer, they wanted to salvage as much as they could.
Windows have also been taken from the buildings to be used for later projects. The construction crew did not find anything out of the ordinary while preparing the buildings for demolition.
"We found some big safes, but not a whole lot of unexpected stuff," Schaefer said on the cleaning process.
Schaefer said unfortunately the new buildings will not incorporate the façade of the older buildings because of the poor shape they are in.
"The structural components were worse than we thought. We wanted to, but the buildings are too brittle," he said.
Schaefer said the current buildings stand 4 ½ feet over the property line, whereas the new structures will stand 5 feet back from where the buildings are currently.
The public-private project began as the Confluence Project, but is still able to proceed with this mixed-use building, even though funding for an arts center is still not secured. UW-Eau Claire is seeking $25 million in state funding for the $51 million arts center through the UW-System.
The Board of Regents will decide this month if the group will include the request in its proposed 2015-17 budget.
With the poor shape of the current buildings, and need for what the mixed-use building offers, Schaefer said construction will proceed regardless of whether funds for the community arts center are approved or not.
"We're getting as much done as we can," said Schaefer.